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Benefits of music therapy and music groups

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 Music has been known to have a significant impact on our wellbeing; it can be used to help increase motivation and focus, explore creatively, promote relaxation and can be a way to express oneself. Given all of these benefits, it's no surprise that music can also be used as a form of therapy to help treat a variety of physical and mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, physical rehabilitation and dementia. This article is going to focus on five components that contribute to the ability of music therapy and musical activities to function as a support for recovery: connectedness, hope, identity, meaning and empowerment.[1]

  • 1.Connectedness

Connectedness refers to our relationships, our supports and our social wellbeing. Music therapy has been noted to help break down the power imbalance between mental health staff and service users, due to the inherently collaborative nature of music creation. This can serve to strengthen the relationship between a user and staff worker. On the other hand, the specifically inclusive structure of music activity groups have shown to be a significant factor in creating therapeutic spaces that foster strong relationships.

  • 2.Hope

Musical groups and music therapy can have strong emotional and spiritual impacts on us. Studies show that music has the capacity create feelings of "wholeness" and reinforce a healthy, optimistic outlook on both specific situations and also life in a more general way. One person commented that the aspect of music in his recovery had "given (him) a stronger will not to give up in a crisis."[2] This intrinsic belief of hope can be a fundamental tenet in sustaining a healthy emotional wellbeing, and music can assist in the development of this belief.

  • 3.Identity

Understanding, acknowledging, and accepting yourself is often crucial in maintaining a consistent love and appreciation for who you are, which in turn lends itself to being able to support yourself. However, this is often far easier said than done. Fortunately for us, music has the potential to be self-expressive and transformative, and the process of exploring ones identity through the expression of sound is something that music therapy and music groups pride themselves on achieving. This process has also been seen to serve in redefining identities, from a more negative "person living with mental illness" label to "musician" – in spite of the fact that the songs were often written in relation to their mental health.

  • 4.Meaning

Experiencing poor mental health can at times feel debilitating and draining, with overwhelming thoughts and a lack of motivation to do much during the day. Music, as you may have guessed, can serve to counterbalance these heavy feelings and thoughts, in more ways than one. One participant in music rehabilitation noted that "It is about focusing on the present moment. Here and now."[3] and how the active participation in music served to ground them. Another was wary of how they found that their musical journey was giving them something to look forward to doing, and reinstating a sense of meaning in their life.

  • 5.Empowerment

Participants of music therapy and music groups begun to find that over time, completing and managing challenging tasks created a possibility for creative growth. They started considering themselves to be musicians, rather than just a person living with a mental health illness. In essence, what they found was that their conditions were an opportunity to explore their potential, as opposed to a limitation of their capabilities. This then had further impacts on their sense of opportunity in their lives.

If you are interested in getting creative and giving music therapy a go, the Australian Music Therapy Association can assist in finding you a music therapist at https://www.austmta.org.au/ or calling (03) 9586 6033. Alternatively, Skylight run Music Groups on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1:30pm to 4:00pm at their Wayville location. Learn more at https://www.skylight.org.au/our-services/activity-groups or calling (08) 8378 4100.

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8296349/

[2] https://academic.oup.com/jmt/article-abstract/50/4/244/970681?redirectedFrom=fulltext#no-access-message

[3] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0209242

Further Reading

https://au.reachout.com/articles/how-to-use-music-for-mental-health

https://ulir.ul.ie/bitstream/handle/10344/6317/Edwards_2016_music.pdf

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health

Image from istockphoto, credit: PamelaJoeMcFarlane

(https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/PamelaJoeMcFarlane)

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We would like to Acknowledge that the land we provide a service on today is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and that we respect their spiritual relationship with their Country. We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today.        

 

 
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